Live to Give, Part III: Hali Utstein and Kristi Linder
Oversees charitable giving program at Coastal Wealth; advocate for Child Rescue Coalition
One for all: Hali Utstein was drawn to the charitable clause in her job description. As vice president of marketing at Coastal Wealth, part of MassMutual Financial Group, she took over its charitable giving program, ensuring that more than 250 employees could make a difference in the community.
With her guidance, the company initiated a holiday toy drive and a paid day off for volunteering. Every year, it supports three new organizations—“one of the heart, one for the world and one local”—in addition to the staff’s passion projects. (Collectively, they support about 40 charities and give more than 2,000 hours of service a month.)
Utstein has been involved with the Child Rescue Coalition since its beginnings, calling its two founders “superwomen.” Based in Boca Raton, it uses technology to hunt down child pornographers—and has a 100-percent conviction rate.
“It tackles a topic that is difficult to talk about, but it’s an important one—child exploitation is rampant,” says Utstein, who works at Coastal Wealth headquarters in Fort Lauderdale but lives in Boca. “It’s gut-wrenching to see how big of an issue this is, but there is a group out there working hard every day to save children.”
Close to Home: Utstein remembers watching a demo put on by the Child Rescue Coalition, where a world map lit up with little red dots representing people who were sharing child pornography in real-time. By the end of the minute-long demo, nearly the entire world was covered. “You can actually see how far and wide this issue is and how close to home it hits you,” she says. “It was that demo that changed everything. Every opportunity I have, I tell somebody about the organization because you don’t know if they’re the next person going to speak on its behalf.”
Born to Give: “My first foray into giving back was through my mother,” she says. “She had a major impact, exposing me to those that have a greater need than I do.” She was active in Girl Scouts growing up, and her family made it a tradition to volunteer at the food bank during Thanksgiving. “Those efforts were ingrained in me from a very young age, and it just grew even further into my life now,” says Utstein, who, with her brother, also owns a vending company that drops off close-dated food that can’t be sold to the public to food banks.
Words to live by: “I think in this social climate, corporations and individuals need to be aware of the impact that we can have collectively. If you don’t know how to get involved, just ask.”
Aqua gown and Kendra Scott earrings, from Bloomingdale’s, Town Center at Boca Raton
Advocate for Danielle DeMarzo Foundation; Impact Young Ambassadors
For the kids: Since becoming a mom a decade ago, the assistant state attorney in the traffic homicide unit with Casso Macy Law Group has focused her philanthropic energy toward helping children with special needs.
“I’m fortunate that I have two healthy children; it’s sad to see what some people have to go through,” says Linder, who has a daughter (age 10) and a son (8). “But these types of organizations give parents the tools and resources they need to be health care advocates for their children.”
She’s been a longtime advocate of the Danielle DeMarzo Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports children with disabilities and their families—and a longtime friend of the DeMarzo family. She helps plan its fundraisers, as well as events for Impact Young Ambassadors, a new organization that raises money for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation and Memorial Foundation.
As part of her efforts for DDF, Linder has donated a wheelchair to a local immobile mother who was struggling to care for her disabled children; she also sent a child on his dream trip to Disney World to spend time with his mother before she died of breast cancer. With Impact, she will help deliver Christmas trees this month at Joe DiMaggio and Memorial facilities where children will be hospitalized during the holidays.
Support System: “These types of organizations give parents the tools and resources they need to be healthcare advocates for their children,” Linder says. “I think it’s important that these parents find support and friendship from other parents at [DDF and Impact] events.”
In the Family: Linder first got involved with DDF through her close relationship with the DeMarzo family, who started the organization on behalf of their daughter, Danielle, born with Turner’s Syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that can cause medical and developmental problems, such as short height, failure of ovary development and heart defects. She had a similar mindset with Joe DiMaggio. “I always thought highly of their medical staff,” she says. “That’s where my kids go if they get sick, so helping Joe DiMaggio only made sense for us and for our family.”
Words to live by: “It’s so rewarding to be involved with a local charity, where you can see the difference you’re making and the impact you’re having on children’s lives and their families.”
Avery G gown and Kendra Scott earrings, from Bloomingdale’s, Town Center